I’ve referenced Dave Witthaus before. Dave is the owner and sole proprietor of Platterpus, Too, a music store that I use and endorse. Platterpus was a fixture in Westfield for years, before taking an unfortunate ciesta in the Hadley mall, dying, and resurfacing as Platterpus, Too in Easthampton.
For reasons only he understands, Witthaus is moving Platterpus from its current location at 74 Cottage Street to 28 Cottage Street in Easthampton.
Dave is a great guy, and I can’t recommend enough that you throw money at him, literally or figuratively.
So, what’s new by you?
Well, I’m moving the store again. It’s going to be 499 feet down the road at 28 Cottage Street.
Well, I’m moving the store again. It’s going to be 499 feet down the road at 28 Cottage Street. That seems pretty funny to everybody. I should point out that I’m moving in order to have some more space. I’ll have a full basement I can use to process the records and CDs that come in. I’m pretty psyched.
What’s your best memory of your tenure as a record store owner?
I can’t really pick one. I think the best memory for any record store owner is when someone finds something at the store that they’ve been searching for forever or when you recommend an album and the customer comes back and tells you how much they liked it. Other than that, my best memories are of customers. I’ve been pretty lucky to have a lot of great ones. There are a few truly odd memories, but those should probably be kept to myself.
You’ve worked professionally in other geographic regions; what’s different about doing business in the Valley?
The Valley is pretty amazing. It’s has an incredible mixture of people. I doubt there are many other areas like it. The diversity is great. In a matter of an hour I can sell old metal, punk, jazz, indie rock, reggae, you name it. Sometimes I’ll sell that all to the same person. In Long Island, where I grew up, most people were into one “scene”. You were a punk, a jam band fan, a jazz fan, whatever, and you rarely strayed too far from that style of music. Here I’ll see a guy in a Between The Buried And Me t-shirt buying a Toots & The Maytals album, or someone buying Miles Davis’ Sketches of Spain and Aerosmith Toys in the Attic in the same sale. You don’t see that in other areas.
Recommend a record for someone to pick up.
Just one? I’m diggin’ the new Merrick Section CD. They’re local guys. Albert King / Stevie Ray Vaughn’s In Session album is 14 or 15 years old now, but I’ve never grown tired of it. If you don’t own it, you should. I was drawn to the new Ian Stewart tribute Boogie 4 Stu by the Rolling Stones track and wound up really liking the entire album. I could go on forever with this question…
You’ve been in business for a long time. What is your secret to staying alive?
Doing a lot of listening and being flexible, I think. I’ve never written a business plan, I’ve never sat and planned long term goals. I go with what feels right. I’ve been really lucky in that most of the time it’s worked. When it hasn’t, I just move on. Many businesses that I’ve seen fail (in all industries) have failed because the owners created a “plan” and stuck to it no matter what. Instead of a plan, I guess I’ve had a concept. I just go with what I think will make the concept work and that’s changed a lot in the past 28 years. If I was asked to give advice to someone who was opening a business, I’d tell them to go with what their “gut” tells them, listen to what people are saying and be prepared to change.
The obvious answer when talking about the recession of the record store industry is file-sharing; what else do you think has caused the downturn?
It’s the obvious answer, but it’s the wrong answer. File sharing took a bite, no doubt, but it was the ability to burn CDs that took the biggest chunk. Tuesday in “new release day” in the music industry. 10 years ago I’d see a group of people come in to the store and 3 or 4 would buy the same release. Now, when a group come in, one buys the CD and then tells the rest he’ll burn a copy for them. Right there you’ve lost 2 or 3 sales. Multiply that by the number of music retailers in the world and the number becomes huge. But you know what? I don’t blame them. The record companies got greedy. I guess burning is payback. I don’t even stock new releases anymore.
What do you see as the future for small music stores like yourself?
I think the big “shakeout” is over. I think the stores that are around today will be around or awhile. We’ve all found a “niche”. This area is a perfect example of that. The old stores like Platterpus, Turn It Up and Mystery Train, along with the newer places, John Doe, Jr and Feeding Tube, have all found a niche. I think we compliment each other very well. Honestly, I think the future looks pretty good.
In your time in the record industry, what’s changed more: the consumers or the product?
Product. Absolutely. People are as passionate today about music as the were 28 years ago when I started.The product has changed (Hell, I had a rack of 8-Tracks when I started out), but the customer is still as passionate as they ever were.
This is a great question because it ties in a lot of what I said earlier. Selling music is so much fun because I’m selling something someone wants, but doesn’t necessarily need. You need food, you need clothing, but you don’t need to own an album. It’s an indulgence or a passion. It’s still as cool today as it was 28 years ago when someone comes in and tells me how great some new band or album is. (Do you think that happens with, say, milk? “Dude! Have you seen the new Hood bottles. Amazing!” Nah, I can’t see it happening.) People still have the same passion for music. The style might be different, how they listen to it is definitely different, but the passion the fans (consumers) have is still the same. That will never change.
Platterpus is having a great vinyl sale this week- all regularly priced vinyl is 20% off. All $1.00 vinyl is 40% off. Everything else (CDs, posters, etc.) is 30% off.
“Nothing is being held back, I’m not hiding the good stuff,” he says. “If it’s in stock, it’s on sale.”